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Tattooing, even in modern societies, is painful and may lead to multiple health problems. It has been hypothesized that having a tattoo might honestly signal a man's immunocompetence and good health. However, to date this hypothesis has largely been untested. Here we report the results of a large population-based study, where photos of real, non-tattooed men were digitally modified to add a tattoo and presented to 2584 men and women. Pictures with and without tattoo were rated in several categories. Women rated tattooed versions of the pictures as healthier, but not more or less attractive than the originals. Inversely, men rated tattooed versions of pictures as more attractive, but not more or less healthy than the originals. Both men and women rated pictures of men with a tattoo as more masculine, dominant and aggressive. Women but not men assessed tattooed men as worse potential partners and parents than non-tattooed men. Moreover, effect size comparison demonstrated that adding tattoos has a greater impact on men's than on women's ratings. Our results confirm that adding tattoos changes others' perception of men. They also demonstrate that tattoos not only influence female preference, but they may be even more important in male-male competition.
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Cite this article: Andrzej Galbarczyk, Anna Ziomkiewicz, Tattooed men: Healthy bad boys
and good-looking competitors, Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 106, 1
February 2017, Pages 122-125, ISSN 0191-8869,
Tattooed men: Healthy bad boys and good-looking competitors
Andrzej Galbarczyka,*, Anna Ziomkiewiczb
a Department of Environmental Health, Jagiellonian University Medical College, 20
Grzegorzecka St., 31-531 Krakow, Poland; E-mail address:
b Department of Anthropology, Polish Academy of Sciences Ludwik Hirszfeld Institute of
Immunology and Experimental Therapy, Podwale 75, 50-449 Wroclaw, Poland; E-mail
* Corresponding author: Andrzej Galbarczyk,
Institute of Public Health, Jagiellonian University Medical College
Grzegorzecka 20, 31351 Krakow, Poland
Phone +48 12 43 32 842
Fax +48 12 421 74 47
© 2017. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Tattooing, even in modern societies, is painful and may lead to multiple health problems. It
has been hypothesized that having a tattoo might honestly signal a man’s immunocompetence
and good health. However, to date this hypothesis has largely been untested. Here we report
the results of a large population-based study, where photos of real, non-tattooed men were
digitally modified to add a tattoo and presented to 2584 men and women. Pictures with and
without tattoo were rated in several categories. Women rated tattooed versions of the pictures
as healthier, but not more or less attractive than the originals. Inversely, men rated tattooed
versions of pictures as more attractive, but not more or less healthy than the originals. Both
men and women rated pictures of men with a tattoo as more masculine, dominant and
aggressive. Women but not men assessed tattooed men as worse potential partners and parents
than non-tattooed men. Moreover, effect size comparison demonstrated that adding tattoos has
a greater impact on men’s than on women’s ratings. Our results confirm that adding tattoos
changes others’ perception of men. They also demonstrate that tattoos not only influence
female preference, but they may be even more important in male-male competition.
Keywords: Tattoo; Handicap hypothesis; Evolutionary psychology; Contest competition;
Mate choice
1. Introduction
Invasive body modifications such as tattooing have a long history in many cultures (Krutak,
2015) and in some populations were used to attract potential mates (Ludvico & Kurland,
1995). It has been hypothesized that such decorations are honest signals of genetic and
phenotypic quality, especially of increased pathogen resistance (Singh & Bronstad, 1997).
In preindustrial societies, tattooing was a life-threatening experience (e.g. McLean &
D’Souza, 2011) but even in modern societies tattooing is painful and may lead to multiple
health problems occurring immediately after the process of tattooing or with some time lag
(Kazandjieva & Tsankov, 2007). Most common health problems associated with tattooing
result from various, often severe, infections (Kotzen, Sell, Mathes, Dentinger, Lee, Schiff, &
Weiss, 2015; LeBlanc, Hollinger, & Klontz, 2012). Therefore, tattoos may not only signal a
man’s high pain tolerance, but also good health and immunocompetence. In fact, it has been
postulated that tattoos in men may act as a handicap signal (sensu Zahavi, 1975) and influence
how they are perceived by others (Singh & Bronstad, 1997). So far, the only attempt to verify
these hypotheses has been done using virtual human characters (Wohlrab, Fink, Kappeler, &
Brewer, 2009). This study showed that having a tattoo may signal both biological and
behavioural traits: tattooed male characters were perceived as healthier by women than by
men, and more dominant both by men and women. Virtual human characters only weakly
represent natural variation in human body appearance, thus, it is unclear if results of such
studies can be extrapolated to judgments of real people. To our knowledge, effects of
tattooing using pictures of real men have been studied only once (Seiter & Hatch, 2005). This
study found that male model attractiveness ratings were not affected by adding a tattoo.
However, this study was small (n=74) and results were not adjusted for sex of the person
evaluating the pictures.
Here we report results from large (n=2 584) population-based study, where photos of real men
were modified by adding a tattoo. Based on hypothesis by Singh and Bronstad (1997), we
predicted that adding a tattoo to photos of real, non-tattooed men will alter their perceived
personality and physical appearance.
There are two mechanisms of sexual selection: mate choice and contest competition between
males, and it has been hypothesized that male contests are the main forms of sexual selection
in humans (Puts, 2010). Given that women assess men as potential partners, while men assess
other men as potential same-sex rivals, we predicted that adding a tattoo will differently and
with varying intensity affect ratings by female and male participants. Specifically, we
hypothesized that female participants should rate tattooed versions of the pictures as more
attractive, healthy, masculine, dominant and aggressive but less suitable as partners or fathers
than the originals. Simultaneously, male participants should rate pictures of men with tattoo as
more masculine, dominant and aggressive than pictures of men without tattoo. Moreover,
adding tattoos should have a greater impact on men’s than on women’s ratings.
2. Methods
We photographed nine shirtless men from the waist up (mean age= 25.1, standard deviation
[SD] = 6.15, range 1935 years). For each picture, the lighting and background were kept
constant. Each model stood in the same pose with a neutral, non-smiling facial expression.
None of the models had a tattoo. A professional photographer digitally modified the pictures
by adding a black arm tattoo with an abstract, neutral design in Adobe Photoshop CS6 (Figure
Fig. 1 Two versions of one of stimulus pictures, original (A) and modified (B)
Data were collected by an online survey advertised in social media (e.g. Facebook) as a
‘‘male attractiveness study.’’ We included in the analysis responses obtained from 2369
exclusively heterosexual woman (mean age= 24.6; SD= 4.59) and 215 exclusively
heterosexual men (mean age= 25.5; SD= 5.39) from Poland. Participants viewed each of the 9
models once. We asked participants to rate a randomly selected version of each pictures. Each
participant rated at least one original and one modified version. Participants rated each
pictures for attractiveness, health, masculinity, dominance, aggression, good potential partner
and good potential father on a five-point semantic differential scale (e.g. 1 = very unattractive;
5 = very attractive).
For each participant, we calculated the mean scores of original and modified versions of
pictures in each category. We analysed differences between mean ratings of original versions
pictures of men without tattoos and modified versions with tattoo in each category in
dependent samples t-tests. For each significant outcome we have additionally calculated an
effect size (Cohen’s d) and the associated 95% confidence intervals (CI). In a meta-analysis
(the fixed-effect model) we have compared mean effect sizes of men and women ratings. All
analyses were performed in Statistica version 12.0. The research protocol was approved by
the Bioethics Committee.
3. Results
Women rated tattooed versions of the pictures as healthier, but not more or less attractive than
the original. Inversely, men rated tattooed versions of pictures as more attractive, but not more
or less healthy than the original. Both men and women rated pictures of men with a tattoo as
more masculine, dominant and aggressive. Women assessed tattooed men as worse potential
partners and parents than non-tattooed men, but having a tattoo did not influence men’s
ratings in those categories (Table 1).
Table 1 Differences between mean ratings of original versions pictures of men without tattoos and modified versions with
added tattoo (dependent samples t-tests).
Women’s ratings (n=2 369)
Men’s ratings (n=215)
95% CI
95% CI
0.06 0.39
0.03 0.12
0.02 0.12
0.00 0.33
0.23 0.35
0.17 0.55
0.26 0.37
0.15 0.52
Good partner
0.07 0.16
Good father
0.08 0.17
Mean effect size, calculated from the absolute values of Cohen's d of each significant
difference, was greater for men (mean Cohen's d =0.26, 95% CI from 0.18 to 0.35) than for
women (mean Cohen's d =0.15, 95% CI from 0.15 to 0.17). Moreover, differences between
these two mean effect sizes for men and for women were statistically significant (Q=5.78,
p=0.01), which means that the effect size was related to the sex of the participant.
4. Discussion
Our results demonstrate that women interpret tattoo ornamentation as a signal of better health.
Similar results have been demonstrated in the study on virtual human characters (Wohlrab et
al., 2009) where women rated virtually created 3-D silhouettes of males. Their ratings on the
dimension of health were significantly higher when silhouettes had added tattoos.
It has been previously shown that, among men, individuals with tattoos and/or
nonconventional body piercings are more symmetrical than individuals without invasive body
modifications (Koziel, Kretschmer, & Pawlowski, 2010). Low level of asymmetry is proposed
as a signal of good health, developmental stability and genetic quality (e.g. Jones, Little,
Penton-Voak, Tiddeman, Burt, & Perrett, 2001), thus this finding suggests better health and
higher biological quality of tattooed or pierced men. Furthermore, given that tattooing may
still be a challenge for health and consequential for survival, a tattoo may be considered as a
handicap signal (Zahavi, 1975). Women may favour tattooed men as more valuable partners
with potentially better health. Interestingly, it has also been shown that repeated tattooing may
be related to potential health benefits, by strengthening immunological responses (Lynn,
Dominguez, & Decaro, 2016).
We have also shown that women rated tattooed men as more masculine, dominant and
aggressive. These testosterone related characteristics are commonly associated with good
health (reviewed in Scott, Clark, Boothroyd, & Penton-Voak, 2013). According to the
immunocompetence hypothesis, since testosterone suppresses immune function (Grossman,
1985), only immunocompetent individuals can afford high levels of testosterone and are
capable of exhibiting exaggerated testosterone-related features (Folstad & Karter, 1992;
Muehlenbein & Bribiescas, 2005).
Besides good health, testosterone-related characteristics may also be associated with other
male qualities potentially desirable by women. For example, women who face an elevated risk
of violence and crime prefer aggressive and dominant males for a long-term relationship,
since they can provide protection for them and their offspring (Snyder, Fessler, Tiokhin,
Frederick, Lee & Navarrete, 2011). It has been also shown that dominance in men is a good
predictor of success in some hierarchies (Mueller & Mazur, 1996) and therefore may
guarantee better access to resources.
Because a strong correlation between health and attractiveness should be expected (see
Grammer, Fink, Møller, & Thornhill, 2003), it may seem surprising that women in our study
did not find tattooed men more attractive. However, in our study, only general attractiveness
was assessed. Women may perceive tattooed men as more attractive only when evaluating
attractiveness for short-term relationships, as it was shown for masculinity preferences (e.g.
Little, Connely, Feinberg, Jones, & Roberts, 2011). This is supported by a study showing that
women found men with posttraumatic facial scarring as more attractive for short-term
relationships but not for long-term relationships (Burriss, Rowland, & Little, 2009).
On the other hand, higher perceived masculinity, aggression and dominance in tattooed men
may explain why those men are not perceived as more attractive. Although aggression might
be a signal of better general biological quality that allows for successful competition and
resource acquisition, it might also constitute a threat for a female and her future offsprings’
survival. For example, men with high testosterone levels more often have extramarital sex and
more often exhibit aggressive behaviour towards their wives (Booth & Dabbs, Jr., 1993).
More masculine men are judged as those who spend more time and resources on mate
acquisition than on paternal investment (Kruger, 2006). Given that there is no clear
correlation between testosterone-related traits and attractiveness (reviewed in Scott et al.,
2013), it is understandable why women in our study ignore the presence of the tattoo during
the evaluation of the attractiveness. However, the dark side of testosterone-related features
perfectly explains why women assessed tattooed men as worse potential partners and parents.
Moreover, our finding that women did not find tattooed men more or less attractive is in
agreement with previous studies showing that women from healthier populations have weaker
preferences toward male masculinity (DeBruine, Jones, Crawford, Welling, & Little, 2010).
Women are willing to pay costs associated with choosing a masculine partner only if they are
outweighed by benefits of having a healthier partner and healthier offspring in an environment
where health, in general, is poor. Further analyses have shown that cross-cultural variation in
women's preferences for masculinity is better predicted by national income inequality, which
is an important determinant not only of national health status but also malemale competition
and violence (Brooks, Scott, Maklakov, Kasumovic, Clark & Penton-Voak, 2011). Poland is a
country with relatively low health risks and where competitive aggression between males is
not crucial for their wealth and status, thus it is not surprising that the presence of tattoo in
Polish men does not influence their attractiveness in the eyes of women.
What may seem surprising is that male participants of our study rated tattooed men not only
as more masculine, dominant and aggressive, but also as more attractive. Since all participants
were exclusively heterosexual, we could assume that they judged the photographed men as
potential same-sex rivals. We may, thus, hypothesize that men believe that tattoos are
attractive to women. Thus, men’s judgment of other men’s attractiveness may be based more
on cultural stereotypes regarding women’s perception of men attractiveness. Moreover, this
belief may even work for them: it has been shown in the prospective study, that men have
significantly higher body appreciation and self-esteem after obtaining their first tattoo
(Swami, 2011).
It has been postulated that human males possess several traits which function is to threaten
and exclude rivals from mating opportunities. This may indicate that male contests have been
very important in human evolution (reviewed in Puts, 2010). For instance, dominance and the
traits favoured by male contests predicted men’s mating success, but the traits favoured by
female choice did not (Hill et al., 2013). Men have very good ability to estimate the physical
strength and fighting ability of other men based on photos of their bodies or even from photos
of their faces (Sell, Cosmides, Tooby, Sznycer, von Rueden & Gurven, 2009). It is thus
possible that men’s tattoos may not only attract the opposite sex as a signal of good health,
but also intimidate rivals of the same sex as a signal of fitness and physical preponderance.
In our study the presence of a tattoo influenced men’s ratings only in those categories that
could be related to intrasexual competition. The presence of a tattoo did not influenced men’s
ratings of health and whether judged males would be good potential fathers or potential
partners. Considering men’s reproductive strategies, we would expect they should not pay
attention to if a tattooed man would be a good partner or a good father, who would pass good
health to his children. However, it would be important to assess if a tattooed man would be a
threat and competition for them.
Our results support that tattoos may have a dual function: they influence female preference,
but also are likely to be important in male-male competition. Very often those two functions
cannot be separated (Zahavi, 1975). However, effect size comparison demonstrated that
tattoos have a greater impact on men’s than on women’s ratings. Given that, we can assume
that a role of tattoos in male-male competition is more important than their role in the female
choice, at least in the population studied. It seems that men are tattooing themselves to
compete with other males rather than to be chosen by potential mates.
It is worth noticing that most of the differences between ratings of tattooed and non-tattooed
men, while statistically significant, are relatively small. This may be related to our method of
modifying pictures. We have added only one relatively small and neutral arm tattoo. It is
likely that more spectacular body modifications and/or its different body localisation would
result in higher differences in ratings. Further, testosterone-related characteristics such as
better (presumably heritable) health and higher aggression and dominance may no longer be
essential in developed societies. Our findings may be just a remnant of evolutionary strategies
from the past, when these traits were much more important and tattooing was much more
risky without modern sanitary practices. We believe that our results show relatively weak but
evolutionarily-based and still important patterns. Further research is needed to clarify if cross-
cultural variation in perception of tattooed men exists, for example similar to the previously
mentioned variation in women's preferences for masculinity (DeBruine et al., 2010).
Moreover, the limitation of this study was that we did not obtain information from
participants whether they had tattoos themselves. Future research can also extend the present
findings by examining whether participants’ dominance level, self-judged attractiveness or
relationship status had an effect on perception of tattooed men.
In conclusion, our results identified two important sexual selection mechanisms that may
support tattooing in men. First, intersexual selection mechanism: women perceive tattoos as a
signal of good health, masculinity, aggressiveness and dominance. In certain ecological
conditions they may thus favour tattooed men as more valuable partners with potentially
better health and higher social rank. Second, intrasexual selection mechanism: men perceive
tattoos of other men as a signal of attractiveness, masculinity, aggressiveness and dominance.
Therefore, they may assess those traits as indicators of higher threat of the same-sex rival. Our
results provide stronger evidence for the second, intrasexual selection mechanism, as the
presence of a tattoo affected male viewers’ perceptions of a male subject more intensely than
female viewers’ perceptions.
We would like to thank Marcin Przybylko, Radoslaw Starzycki, Karolina Milkowska, Iwona
Klęk, Jowita Plich, Sebastian Starba and Sylwia Kowalczyk for their help in project
realization. We are grateful to all who volunteered as our models and to all study participants.
We are also grateful for helpful comments from Laura Klein, Magdalena Klimek and Grazyna
Jasienska. Funding: This project was financially supported by the grant K/ZDS/004696 from
The Ministry of Science and Higher Education (Poland).
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... All other psychological studies seem to wrestle with the changing status of body modifications as an emerging or "new" normal. We identified what could be called a "general" category of social psychology studies of body modifications, seeking explanations for how modified people are perceived and how people with modifications are treated (e.g., Drews et al., 2000;Galbarczyk et al., 2020;Galbarczyk and Ziomkiewicz, 2017;Hawkes et al., 2004;Martino, 2008;Martino and Lester, 2011;Miłkowska et al., 2018;Resenhoeft et al., 2008;Wohlrab et al., 2009aWohlrab et al., , 2009b). An a priori assumption undergirding these studies is that body modifications have been historically stigmatised, and stigma may persist in interpersonal interactions. ...
... The evolutionary perspective suggests that well-healed modifications may function as external indicators of good underlying health. This hypothesis is tested by exploring how modifications are perceived by observers in terms of attractiveness and health as adaptive indicators of partner suitability (e.g., Galbarczyk et al., 2020;Galbarczyk and Ziomkiewicz, 2017;Miłkowska et al., 2018;Wohlrab et al., 2009aWohlrab et al., , 2009b. ...
... Tattoos can also be the material manifestations of certain types of communal (e.g., Edgerton and Dingman, 1963), ethnic (e.g., Skegg et al., 2007), or gender identities (e.g., Galbarczyk and Ziomkiewicz, 2017). Within this scoping review, several of the developmental psychology articles focus largely on tattoos as materialising and signalling identity (e.g., Dillingh et al., 2020;Mun et al., 2012;Skegg et al., 2007). ...
Full-text available
Body modification is a blanket term for tattooing, piercing, scarring, cutting, and other forms of bodily alteration generally associated with fashion, identity, or cultural markings. Body modifications like tattooing and piercing have become so common in industrialised regions of the world that what were once viewed as marks of abnormality are now considered normal. However, the psychological motivations for body modification practices are still being investigated regarding deviance or risky behaviours, contributing to a sense in the academic literature that body modifications are both normal and deviant. We explored this inconsistency by conducting a scoping review of the psychological literature on body modifications under the assumption that the psychological and psychiatric disciplines set the standard for related research. We searched for articles in available online databases and retained those published in psychology journals or interdisciplinary journals where at least one author is affiliated with a Psychology or Psychiatry programme (N = 94). We coded and tabulated the articles thematically, identifying five categories and ten subcategories. The most common category frames body modifications in general terms of risk, but other categories include health, identity, credibility/employability, and fashion/attractiveness. Trends in psychology studies seem to follow the shifting emphasis in the discipline from a clinical orientation regarding normality and abnormality to more complex social psychological approaches.
... Features that affect our perceptions are not always characteristic of developmental mechanisms, but may be something we manipulate, such as clothing, hairstyle, and body modification. One method of body modification, tattoos, have a history of human use as far back as the Neolithic era (Alter-Muri, 2019), and have been the subject of much psychological investigation (e.g., Galbarczyk & Ziomkiewicz, 2017). ...
... Furthermore, tattoo possession has also been associated with a number of male-typical behaviours such as increased sensation seeking (Stirn, Hinz, & Brähler, 2006) and risktaking (Carroll, Riffenburgh, Roberts, & Myhre, 2002). Men with tattoos are also perceived as more masculine, dominant and aggressive (Galbarczyk & Ziomkiewicz, 2017). Hence, tattoos carry an association with masculine traits, despite their negative stigma. ...
... For example, when considering a long-term relationship, women may prefer dominant males to ensure their partner can provide protection for them and their offspring against potentially aggressive other males (Buss & Schmitt, 1993). The possession of a tattoo also serves a social signal of a male's dominance and masculinity, not just to potential mates, but also to potential rivals (Galbarczyk & Ziomkiewicz, 2017;Wohlrab et al., 2009). Galbarczyk and Ziomkiewicz (2017) compared men's and women's ratings of a series of physical and personality characteristics of tattooed versus nontattooed men. ...
Previous research has demonstrated that men's tattoos have an effect on viewer's perceptions, with tattooed men perceived as more attractive, masculine, aggressive, dominant, and healthy. However, little research has considered the effect of individual differences on perceptions of tattooed men, despite individual differences affecting mating efforts. In this study, we explored the effect of tattoo ownership on men's and women's perceptions of their own self-rated attractiveness and mate value, and explored the effect of tattoo ownership, self-rated attractiveness and mate value on the relationship between male stimuli tattoo level and eight character judgements. From a sample of 146 men and 299 women, we found that tattooed women perceive themselves as less attractive, and that women's self-rated attractiveness impacts whether or not men's tattoos matter when judging attractiveness, trustworthiness, and potential as a father. While some limitations are evident, this study expands on previous research, demonstrating that men's tattoo possession matters in the context of opposite-sex mating judgements, though may not be as important in judgements of same-sex rivals. Future research should explore the effect of varying tattoo size, style, and location, on perceptions of others.
... One possibility is that tattoos serve the function of accentuating attractive body parts to potential mates and/or as a means of hiding perceived shortcomings in appearance [7]. Another idea is that they act as an honest signal of biological quality [7][8][9][10], i.e. in accordance with Zahavi's [11] handicap principle. The general premise is that those with high biological quality would be more likely to survive the process of getting tattooed, and so, might be more willing to incur the risks in order to signal their biological quality to potential mates and intrasexual rivals. ...
... Circumstantial evidence for this idea is provided by tattoos being positively correlated with risk taking and sexual behaviours during late adolescence and young adulthood [40]. Likewise, a recent study demonstrated that women perceive tattoos on men as a signal of good health, and men more intensely perceive tattoos on other men as a signal of attractiveness, masculinity, aggressiveness and dominance [10]. ...
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Background: Tattoos bring risks yet no obvious evolutionary benefit. Koziel et al. (2010) reported increased fluctuating symmetry (a proxy for low developmental instability) in tattooed men, suggesting they could serve as fitness indicators. Aims: We replicate and extend the findings of Koziel et al. by examining fluctuating asymmetry of finger lengths and digit ratio (2D:4D) (a putative indicator of prenatal testosterone exposure) as predictors of adult tattoos prevalence. Study design: We used an online survey with a correlational design. Subjects: Participants were recruited from the UK and Poland via university participant pools and social media. Data were available for presence/absence of tattoos and at least one predictor variable (composite Fluctuating Asymmetry [cFA], right-hand digit ratio [R2D:4D] and left-hand digit ratio [L2D:4D]) for n=186 males and n=997 females. Outcome measures: We firstly assessed presence/absence of tattoos; when at least one tattoo was present, we also examined overall number and highest visibility. Results: Greater cFA was associated with lower likelihood of having tattoo in males, though in females greater cFA was associated with higher numbers of tattoos. R2D:4D and L2D:4D correlated negatively with number of tattoos in males, and a positive correlation between L2D:4D and number of tattoos was observed in females. However, these latter findings did not remain significant after controlling for covariates. Conclusions: Tattoos may act as fitness indicators in males, though this explanation appears not to extend to females. Prenatal testosterone may also play a role, though doubt is cast on this premise because 2D:4D effects did not remain statistically significant after controlling for covariates.
... Only a few studies directly tested whether tattoos are considered attractive. Polish women (but not men) rated digital photos of men with tattoos as healthier compared to photos of the same men without tattoos (Galbarczyk & Ziomkiewicz, 2017). Despite their widespread popularity, tattooed people and especially women with tattoos are often judged negatively in Western societies (Skoda et al., 2020). ...
... Certainly, this trend is not universal, as to some tattooed bodies appear as stronger, more dominant or attractive than the non-tattooed (e.g. Galbarczyk, Ziomkiewicz, 2017). Tattooed individual might also give the impression of boldness and courage, as the procedure of getting a tattoo is painful and the change is permanent (e.g. ...
Since the ‘50s there is a steady rise in popularity and social acceptance towards tattooing. While people may choose to get a tattoo for a variety of reason, it seems that for the majority they are meaningful and convey personal messages and stories in symbolic form. This article focuses on communicative quality of tattoos, derived from their narrative design. First, the social meaning of the very fact of being tattooed is discussed, drawing on prevailing social prejudice and stereotypes. Then, tattoos are analyzed from the standpoint of personal narratives, showcasing various meanings that can be deciphered both by the others and by tattoees themselves. Finally, the dynamic and relative nature of tattoos is examined, with a closing reflection upon the reason why getting tattoos might be so compelling.
... We examined birth order in relation to tattoos, as this is an outcome often thought risky and rebellious yet found commonly within the general population (Adams, 2009;Camacho & Brown, 2018;Pentina & Spears, 2011;Stieger et al., 2010;Swami et al., 2016). Tattoos may be considered a form of appearance enhancement that could benefit reproductive success by increasing one's attractiveness relative to that of one's intrasexual rivals (Davis & Arnocky, 2022; see also Galbarczyk & Ziomkiewicz, 2017;Valentova et al., 2022). The decision of whether or not to get a tattoo (and what design and location on the body) is often carefully considered, though can also be impulsive; likewise, some attach deeply significant personal meanings to their tattoos whereas others do not (Pentina & Spears, 2011). ...
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Sulloway's 'born to rebel' hypothesis posits that later-borns develop personality characteristics which diverge from the status quo. Considering inconsistencies in the birth order literature as well as theoretical and meth-odological criticisms levied against this theory, we tested predictions derived from it using a sample of N = 2011 participants from the UK and Poland. We predicted later-borns would more likely have tattoos, and that this would be mediated by openness, risk-taking, sensation-seeking, and need for uniqueness. Tattooed individuals had higher risk-taking, sensation-seeking, and need for uniqueness, but birth order was not a predictor of having tattoos. Furthermore, although later-borns had higher risk-taking and sensation-seeking, they had lower need for uniqueness. Our results do not provide support for the 'born to rebel' hypothesis.
... This allowed us to follow up on this line of criticism and note that their direct replication used visual stimuli which indisputably provided other visual cues apart from the face. In most cases, what was visible was the upper half of the chest and shoulders, frequently featuring tattoos (Galbarczyk & Ziomkiewicz, 2017;Wohlrab, Fink, Kappeler, & Brewer, 2009), and in some cases the fighters even wore their weight-class champion's belts ( Figs. 1 and 2). Although Caton and colleagues report selecting 'approximately neutral facial expressions' with athletes facing the camera, the dataset and subsequent analyses included images of smiling and frowning athletes as well as head turning/tilting (Fig. 2). ...
... For these reasons, tattoos may qualify as a costly signal that only certain members of the population can consistently exploit because they may be healthier or more genetically fit (Koziel et al., 2010;Lynn, Dominguez, & DeCaro, 2016;Lynn et al., 2019;. In previous work, Polish women, but not men, rated a digital photograph of a man with a tattoo as healthier relative to a picture of the same man without a tattoo (Galbarczyk & Ziomkiewicz, 2017). Similarly, evidence derived from American participants suggests that there is a link between bodily symmetry and having tattoos and piercings, but only for men (Koziel et al., 2010). ...
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Researchers have highlighted numerous sociocultural factors that have been shown to underpin human appearance enhancement practices, including the influence of peers, family, the media, and sexual objectification. Fewer scholars have approached appearance enhancement from an evolutionary perspective or considered how sociocultural factors interact with evolved psychology to produce appearance enhancement behavior. Following others, we argue that evidence from the field of evolutionary psychology can complement existing sociocultural models by yielding unique insight into the historical and cross-cultural ubiquity of competition over aspects of physical appearance to embody what is desired by potential mates. An evolutionary lens can help to make sense of reliable sex and individual differences that impact appearance enhancement, as well as the context-dependent nature of putative adaptations that function to increase physical attractiveness. In the current review, appearance enhancement is described as a self-promotion strategy used to enhance reproductive success by rendering oneself more attractive than rivals to mates, thereby increasing one’s mate value. The varied ways in which humans enhance their appearance are described, as well as the divergent tactics used by women and men to augment their appearance, which correspond to the preferences of opposite-sex mates in a heterosexual context. Evolutionarily relevant individual differences and contextual factors that vary predictably with appearance enhancement behavior are also discussed. The complementarity of sociocultural and evolutionary perspectives is emphasized and recommended avenues for future interdisciplinary research are provided for scholars interested in studying appearance enhancement behavior.
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Fluiditas media sosial memungkinkan identitas gender yang berseberangan dengan gender konvensional seperti dilakukan Jovi dan Anastasia melalui identitas androgini. Namun demikian, performativitas identitas yang direpresentasikan di media sosial tidak hanya diperuntukkan sebagai ekspresi diri, melainkan juga ada kepentingan lain yang dihadirkan. Berdasarkan hal itu, kajian ini bertujuan untuk mengetahui bagaimana performativitas identitas androgini Jovi dan Anastasia di Instagram, dan bagaimana peran industri budaya dilibatkan. Analisis dilakukan dengan menggunakan analisis wacana multimodalitas dari Gunther Kress dan Theo van Leeuwen, konsep performativitas Judith Butler, dan konsep representasi diri di media sosial dari Jill Walker Rettberg. Adapun, korpus kajian ini ialah 4 foto yang terdiri dari 1 foto self-portrait dan 1 foto kerja yang masing-masing diunggah oleh Jovi serta Anastasia di akun Instagramnya. Hasil kajian memperlihatkan bahwa performativitas identitas androgini yang dilakukan keduanya bukan semata ekspresi diri, melainkan praktik komodifikasi. Kecenderungan performativitas Jovi dan Anastasia pada satu polar gender juga merupakan bentuk selfbranding yang menjadi bagian dari strategi pemasaran yang dijalankan
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Objectives: A costly signaling model suggests tattooing inoculates the immune system to heightened vigilance against stressors associated with soft tissue damage. We sought to investigate this "inoculation hypothesis" of tattooing as a costly honest signal of fitness. We hypothesized that the immune system habituates to the tattooing stressor in repeatedly tattooed individuals and that immune response to the stress of the tattooing process would correlate with lifetime tattoo experience. Methods: Participants were 24 women and 5 men (aged 18-47). We measured immune function using secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA) and cortisol (sCORT) in saliva collected before and after tattoo sessions. We measured tattoo experience as a sum of number of tattoos, lifetime hours tattooed, years since first tattoo, percent of body covered, and number of tattoo sessions. We predicted an inverse relationship between SIgA and sCORT and less SIgA immunosuppression among those with more tattoo experience. We used hierarchical multiple regression to test for a main effect of tattoo experience on post-tattoo SIgA, controlling for pretest SIgA, tattoo session duration, body mass, and the interaction between tattoo experience and test session duration. Results: The regression model was significant (P = 0.006) with a large effect size (r(2) = 0.711) and significant and positive main (P = 0.03) and interaction effects (P = 0.014). Conclusions: Our data suggest that the body habituates over time to the tattooing stressor. It is possible that individuals with healthy immune systems heal faster, making them more likely to get multiple tattoos. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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In response to two isolated cases of Mycobacterium chelonae infections in tattoo recipients where tap water was used to dilute ink, the New York City (NYC) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conducted an investigation using Emergency Department (ED) syndromic surveillance to assess whether an outbreak was occuring. ED visits with chief complaints containing the "tattoo" from November 1, 2012 to March 18, 2013 were selected for study. NYC laboratories were also contacted and asked to report skin or soft tissue cultures in tattoo recipients that were positive for non-tuberculosis mycobacterial infection (NTM). Thirty-one TREDV were identified and 14 (45%) were interviewed to determine if a NTM was the cause for the visit. One ED visit met the case definition and was referred to a dermatologist. This individual was negative for NTM. No tattoo-associated NTM cases were reported by NYC laboratories. ED syndromic surveillance was utilized to investigate a nonreportable condition for which no other data source existed. The results were reassuring that an outbreak of NTM in tattoo recipients was not occurring. In response to concerns about potential NTM infections, the department sent a letter to all licensed tattoo artists advising them not to dilute tattoo ink with tap water. © 2015, Public Library of Science. All rights reserved. This is an open access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.
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For millennia, peoples around the world have tattooed human skin to communicate various ontological, psychosocial, and sociocultural concepts encompassing beauty, cultural identity, status and position, medicine, and supernatural protection. As a system of knowledge transmission, tattooing has been and continues to be a visual language of the skin whereby culture is inscribed, experienced, and preserved in a myriad of specific ways. If we are to fully comprehend the meanings that tattoos have carried across human history and into the present, then it would be useful to explore some of the ways tattoos, as instruments that transmit culture, have been deployed cross-culturally through time. © 2015 S. Karger AG, Basel.
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Facial dominance of West Point cadets, measured from their graduation portraits, is known to be related to cadets' ranks at the military academy, but it has been reported to be unrelated to their ranks in later career (Mazur, Mazur & Keating 1984). With improved methods of data collection and analysis, we show that cadets' facial dominance, while still unrelated to their ranks at midcareer, is related to promotions in late career, 20 or more years after the portraits were taken. These results suggest that the absence of physical features from current models of status attainment is a serious omission.
We examine the relationship of testosterone to tendencies to marry and divorce, and to the quality of marriage, of a large representative sample of men. The analysis shows that men producing more testosterone are less likely to marry and more likely to divorce. Once married they are more likely to leave home because of troubled marital relations, extramarital sex, hitting or throwing things at their spouses, and experiencing a lower quality of marital interaction. Sociological models that might be informed by this finding are examined, and its implications for subsequent research are discussed.
Tattoos and non-conventional piercings are used in many societies. There are several social reasons for which people use these forms of body decorations (e.g., marking social status or signaling membership within a subculture). However, it is interesting why only some people within a group that uses body decoration as a badge of membership decide upon such decorations. Since both tattoos and piercings can present health risks (e.g., due to blood-borne disease transmission risk), we postulate that people who decide to have such a body decoration might have relatively higher biological quality and that tattoos/piercings can be an honest signal of genetic quality. The possible opposite hypothesis is the “attractiveness increase hypothesis,” according to which people use body decorations to increase their own physical attractiveness or to hide some shortcomings in their appearance (e.g., low body symmetry). To test these hypotheses, we compared body fluctuating asymmetry, which is considered a good measure of developmental stability, between individuals wearing tattoos and/or non-conventional piercings (n=116) and a control group (without such body decorations) (n=86). We found that majority of the absolute and relative fluctuating asymmetry indices had significantly lower values in individuals with tattoos/piercings than in the control group. This effect was strongly driven by males. Higher body symmetry of the men having tattoo or piercing indicates that this type of body decoration in the western society can be related to the honest signal of biological quality only for men. We did not find support for the “attractiveness increase hypothesis” for either sex.
The “good genes” explanation of attractiveness posits that mate preferences favour healthy individuals due to direct and indirect benefits associated with the selection of a healthy mate. Consequently, attractiveness judgements are likely to reflect judgements of apparent health. One physical characteristic that may inform health judgements is fluctuating asymmetry as it may act as a visual marker for genetic quality and developmental stability. Consistent with these suggestions, a number of studies have found relationships between facial symmetry and facial attractiveness. In Study 1, the interplay between facial symmetry, attractiveness, and judgements of apparent health was explored within a partial correlation design. Findings suggest that the attractiveness–symmetry relationship is mediated by a link between judgements of apparent health and facial symmetry. In Study 2, an opposite-sex bias in sensitivity to facial symmetry was observed when judging health. Thus, perceptual analysis of symmetry may be an adaptation facilitating discrimination between potential mates on the basis of apparent health. The findings of both studies are consistent with a “good genes” explanation of the attractiveness–symmetry relationship and problematic for the claim that symmetry is attractive as a by-product of the ease with which the visual recognition system processes symmetric stimuli.
Pathogen prevalence can affect human mate selection because pathogen severity limits the number of high-quality pathogen-resistant mates. This creates a selection pressure to fashion mechanisms to identify and select pathogen-resistant mates. Gangestad and Buss have suggested that attractiveness indicates pathogen resistance. Humans in many instances enhance their attractiveness by using permanent body markings, such as tattooing and scarification. We hypothesized that as pathogen severity increases, so should permanent marking of body areas that are attended to for evaluating attractiveness and mate quality. Females were predicted to scarify their breasts and stomachs (due to the stomach being a component of waist-to-hip ratio), both indicative of youthfulness and fertility. Males were predicted to scarify those body parts indicative of sexual maturity and strength, such as the face, shoulders, and arms. Cross-cultural data revealed that pathogen prevalence predicts female stomach scarification independent of polygyny, famine, and social class stratification. The relationship between scarification of body parts and pathogen prevalence was not evident for males. These findings, based upon between-society comparisons, suggest that stomach scarification could act as a signal of female mate quality in societies that encounter a high prevalence of pathogens.